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Spencer Finch


Spencer Finch

Through March 4. Hill Art Foundation, 239 10th Avenue, Manhattan; 212-337-4455;

As a critic, I don’t collect: There are too many chances for a conflict of interest. So I was thrilled that “Lux and Lumen,” Spencer Finch’s show at the Hill Art Foundation, let me get another look at the one recent work I’ve longed to own.

“The Outer — from the Inner (Emily Dickinson’s Bedroom, dusk),” is a suite of seven views through a window at Dickinson’s house in Amherst, Mass., photographed across the course of an hour. In the first shot, with the light barely fading outside, we see through to the garden; only hints of the room’s interior are reflected in the glass. The final shot, taken after sunset, shows the whole lamp-lit room in the reflection, with bare traces of the dark garden beyond peeking through. Finch uses a scientist’s rigor to capture the poet’s signature collapse of the domestic and natural worlds.

For “Candlelight (CIE 529/418),” Finch covers a window in pink and orange stained glass, color-balanced to turn the daylight outside into the warm, romantic light of times past, which then intrudes on the modernist gleam of the 21st-century gallery. The work’s scientific manipulation of light turns the clock back to a candlelit moment when science had nothing to do with our lighting.

“Painting Air” fills a large gallery with hanging sheets of tinted glass that, in theory, duplicate light effects from Claude Monet’s garden in Giverny, France. But Finch’s duplication, however precisely calculated, barely calls to mind either the real garden’s light or a painter’s impression of it. As always, Finch’s artful science works both to bring the world into our midst and to distance us from it. BLAKE GOPNIK

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